The Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) is a butterfly found in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. I reared this one from the caterpillar stage. The butterfly is resting on my arm after being released. A few moments later, it flew up and away.
If it looks familiar to residents of North America, there’s good reason. It’s related to the Buckeye (Junonia coenia). One of the host plants for Meadow Argus is Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), a wonderful nectar plant that grows along roadsides and in empty fields on the island of Tongatapu, the main island of Tonga.
Be inspired today by the beauty of an Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) that I reared and released.
One of my favorite butterflies to raise is the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). It’s an easy species to attract to your garden. You just need to provide their host plants on which the females lay their eggs, including Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Rue or Golden Alexander and they will find them.
Once you find the eggs or tiny caterpillars, remove the leaves or pieces of the plant they are on and place them inside a small plastic cup with a lid. This keeps the tiny caterpillars from escaping.) Do not punch holes.
Keep them inside the cup until after they hatch and for a few days. Then you can place them inside a larger container. I like to use salad containers from fast-food restaurants, but you can use any container with a lid. I use a pushpin to punch air holes in the lid. Line the bottom of the container with a paper towel or coffee filter. Be sure to provide plenty of the host plant leaves on which you found the eggs and/or caterpillars.
Check on your caterpillars each day to make sure they have enough food to feast on. Once they get bigger you will need to empty the fecal droppings (known as frass) each day and add a new coffee filter or paper towel plus fresh food.
When they are ready to pupate, they will crawl to the top of the lid and make their chrysalis. Many people like to put sticks inside the container for them to use, but that is not necessary. However, it can be fun to see the different colors the chrysalis becomes.
It usually takes about two weeks for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. You can then experience the joy of holding and releasing your new butterfly.
Adding a fruit feeder to your butterfly garden can help attract butterflies. Many butterflies do not live on flower nectar alone. Some species prefer, even require, overripe fruit to feed on. Butterflies are particularly fond of sliced, rotting oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apples, and bananas.
By placing sliced oranges and watermelon inside a suet bird feeder you can make this simple butterfly feeder.
This easily-assembled butterfly feeder is a clay saucer with sliced cantaloupe that was positioned on top of a hanging plant basket. It was hung in a Plum Tree (Prunus spp.), which happens to be a host plant for the Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis) seen feeding here.
My friend, Jill Streit-Murphy, hangs out a rotten banana in her garden. There are so many butterflies you can’t even see the fruit!
While in Costa Rica last summer, I set out some fruit in a birdbath and attracted amazingly beautiful butterflies.
Keep ants at bay by hanging your butterfly feeder with an ant guard. Whether you use the kind shown here with a small bit of pesticide tucked inside where it doesn’t come in contact with the butterflies or the type that you keep filled with water and a few drops of cooking oil, ant guards are essential equipment when using butterfly feeders.